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How to Take Your Dog's Temperature at Home and Ease Fevers

Adrienne is a certified dog trainer, behavior consultant, former veterinarian assistant, and author of Brain Training for Dogs.

Does your lethargic dog have a fever?

Does your lethargic dog have a fever?

Do you know how to take your dog's temperature? A dog's temperature is always part of a thorough physical exam, as it plays an important role in diagnosing diseases and assessing various conditions. But you do not need to take your dog to your veterinarian just to get a temperature reading; with the right tools and some collaboration from your dog, you can easily assess your dog's internal temperature from the comfort of your home! But first, let's learn more about fevers in dogs and debunk some common myths.

Just as is in humans, fevers in dogs develop for a particular reason: to fight an infection. When a fever arises, it occurs as an act of defense, because the body has generally recognized some sort of foreign body such as bacteria and viruses. The elevated temperature of a fever causes these viruses and bacteria to perish because they do not do well in hot environments.

Symptoms of Fever in Dogs

Dogs affected by fever often tend to develop the following symptoms:

  • Loss of Appetite
  • Tendency to Sleep More
  • Hiding
  • Lethargy

Note: Dogs may also develop many other diverse symptoms depending on the underlying cause of the fever.

Noses and Ears Are Not Good Indicators of Fever in Dogs

It is important for dog owners to realize that using the dog's nose as an indicator of health is not a good way to diagnose a fever!

A dog's nose is basically susceptible to its surrounding quite in the same manner as our lips are. In other words, a dog's nose has a tendency to dry out in dry environments and become wet instead when the surrounding areas have high humidity levels. Therefore, there can be very sick dogs with wet noses and there can be very healthy dogs with extremely dry noses. For more on this read "The truth about dry noses in dogs."

Touching a dog's ears may also be an unreliable method to diagnose a fever. This is mainly because a dog's temperature is normally several degrees higher than a human's, causing them to feel hot; however, in some instances, hot ears in dogs may indicate the presence of an ear infection.

Therefore, the ultimate method to accurately diagnose a fever remains taking the dog's rectal temperature. So now let's see how we can take your dog's temperature at home.

Dogs will love this!

How to Take Your Dog's Temperature

So now that you know you cannot rely on your dog's nose nor his ears, to tell if he is running a fever the next step is gathering all the equipment you need. (There's a reason why vets use thermometers!) To get started, equip yourself with the following tools.

  • A digital or mercury thermometer
  • Petroleum jelly or K-Y jelly
  • A friend to help assist
  • Your dog's favorite treats

You want to choose an area of your home that is quiet and with little distractions. If you have a small dog placing him on a table may help. Have your friend hold the dog still, and carefully lubricate the thermometer with either the petroleum jelly or K.Y. jelly. Depending on the type of thermometer you are using, the method for getting a temperature reading may be slightly different.

The Mercury Thermometer method

If you are using an old fashioned mercury thermometer remember to flick it so the mercury goes below 94 degrees. Lift the dog's tail and gently insert the thermometer only for about one to three inches. Hold in place for about 3 minutes. Don't forget to praise and treat your dog for being collaborative.

The Digital Thermometer Method

If you are using a digital thermometer, insert it in the same way as the mercury thermometer (no need to flick it) and wait until it beeps. Don't forget to offer a treat once you have taken the reading.

The temperature reading becomes easier and easier with practice. Owners that particularly dislike taking their dog's temperature rectally, may rejoice in learning that lately some new ear thermometers specifically made for pets are on the market. These thermometers can be costly but they may be worth it especially with dogs that are not particularly collaborative. However, they're not the easiest to use.

Of course, a temperature reading is useless if dog owners do not know what to look for. Normal rectal temperatures in dogs range between 100˚F–102.5˚F. Anything above or below this range requires veterinarian attention!

How to Reduce Fever in Dogs

My dog has a fever . . . now what? Owners can help dogs with mild fevers at home by providing plenty of fluids.

  • Ice chips are a good resource for dogs that have lost their appetite or are nauseous.
  • Cold compresses applied to the stomach area, armpit area, and paw pads may be effective in lowering the body's internal temperature.
  • A cool bath of 5–10 minutes may give relief, but the dog must be dried carefully afterward.

Always see your vet if your dog has a mild fever, as you need to treat the underlying cause!

When the dog's temperature reading is over 104˚F and the dog is exhibiting other symptoms as well, it is highly recommended to have a veterinarian immediately assess the situation and run diagnostic tests.

As seen, taking a dog's temperature is not really a difficult task. However, the importance of having a veterinarian assess the situation can never be emphasized enough. Dogs do not normally have fevers; therefore, when this happens, something is not working properly and may need attention.

This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. It is not meant to substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, or formal and individualized advice from a veterinary medical professional. Animals exhibiting signs and symptoms of distress should be seen by a veterinarian immediately.

Questions & Answers

Question: What is a high fever for a dog?

Answer: The normal body temperature of dogs ranges between 101 and 102.5 degrees. A fever is generally anything more than 103 degrees.

© 2009 Adrienne Farricelli

Comments

Adrienne Farricelli (author) on July 15, 2013:

Yes, that's what I would always recommend and that I emphasize repeatedly in the article. Dogs don't normally have fevers, any raise in temperature is a sign of something wrong. When my dog developed valley fever, his first sign was a high temperature and loss of appetite. I hope your boy recovers soon!

Suraj on July 15, 2013:

the best thing is to call your vet if temp reads more than 102.5

the vet will prolly give antibiotics injection and another injection of reducing fever.make sure your dogs drinks water and once the temp becomes normal,your dog will ask for food because for sure your dog wont eat anything when the temp is high..most common symptoms are loss of appetite,tendency to sleep more,lethargy!

today my dog looked dull and was not eating his fav food also so i knew something was wrong,his armpits were very hot so i called my vet and he checked the temp with the digital therm. and temp was 104 so he gave him one antibiotic injection and and one more injection to reduce fever n bringing the body temp down.Within an hour my dog felt better and started playing lil n ate a lot of dog biscuits and drank good amount of water n looked better,started walking around...he is sleeping right now and hopefully he will be feeling perfect in the morning.:)

Kasey on September 25, 2011:

Thank u

Adrienne Farricelli (author) on September 25, 2011:

Your dog is just a little tad bit higher but not enough to be really considered a fever. I would just keep an eye on him/her and provide fresh water.

Kasey on September 24, 2011:

My foster dog has a temp of 102.7 should I be worried?

Adrienne Farricelli (author) on July 31, 2011:

Yes, dogs can get a generalized fever as a response to an infection, please take him to the vet.

Antonio on July 31, 2011:

My Dog got bit on his feet and it's swollen. If there is a possible that my dog could get a fever.?

Linagirl on July 12, 2011:

My dogs temp is 102.7

He was vomiting, not eating and very lethargic. He is a very large dog. He could not get into the pickup and I couldn't lift him. He finally started eating ice chips and Gatorade hopefully we will be able to loaf him up tomorrow or build a ramp

petluvrrs on January 02, 2011:

my rotti has a temp of 104.7 vet opens tomorrow in the mean time im doin all i can..fluids antibiotic ect

Gypsy Willow from Lake Tahoe Nevada USA , Wales UK and Taupo New Zealand on June 29, 2009:

More useful dog info, thanks!